Waterloo station upgrade: Passengers report trains better than normal despite predictions of ‘month of chaos’

One commuter tweeted: 'Looks like the entire commuting population of Kingston is "working from home", judging by the almost empty 06.59 to #Waterloo.'

Ben Chapman@b_c_chapman
Monday 07 August 2017 13:37
A section of Waterloo station is closed as construction work to lengthen platforms gets underway
A section of Waterloo station is closed as construction work to lengthen platforms gets underway

Commuters reported easier journeys than normal on train lines into London Waterloo on Monday morning as some passengers apparently took alternative routes or worked from home to avoid a predicted "month of chaos".

Amended rail services ran “very well” on the first weekday morning of a major engineering project, Network Rail boss Mark Carne said.

Operator South West Trains had told passengers to expect widespread delays as ten of the platforms at Europe’s biggest transport hub closed between 5 and 28 August.

It had warned that some stations on the network, which covers areas south and west of the capital would be “exceptionally busy” with passengers facing queues to get in.

A signalling problem affected trains entering three platforms at Waterloo on Monday, leading to delays of up to 20 minutes, but otherwise no serious issues were reported.

One commuter tweeted: "Looks like the entire commuting population of Kingston is 'working from home', judging by the almost empty 06.59 to #Waterloo."

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne told the Press Association: “It's gone very well this morning. So far, so good.

“This is the start of a three-week campaign and there will be some difficult days I'm quite sure.

“But passengers I think understand that this is a necessary evil to achieve a fantastic improvement in the services that they are going to enjoy for decades ahead.”

An average of 270,000 journeys are normally made to or from Waterloo every day.

In the middle of the engineering work, on 20 August, South West Trains will be handing over the franchise to new operators First Group and Hong Kong-based MTR.

David Sidebottom, director of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “How this work is managed over the next four weeks is key to passengers' trust in the rail industry.

“They need to know when the work is being done, what it means to them and their journey, and they should be appropriately compensated.”

Coach operator, National Express, said it had laid on thousands of extra seats to services this August after demand for coach travel soared in affected areas.

What is happening at Waterloo and why?

Half of the platforms at Waterloo are being extended to allow for longer 10-coach trains to operate from December.

The station doesn't have capacity to take any more rush-hour trains, meaning the only way to increase the number of seats for travellers is to lengthen the trains. But many of the platforms are not long enough, so they need to be extended. From 5 to 28 August, platforms 1 to 10 platforms will be shut so work can be carried out.

Network Rail, the body in charge of maintaining the country’s rail infrastructure, has chosen August to do this because it is the quietest month of the year for rail travel.

The old Eurostar platforms at Waterloo have been re-opened for the first time in a decade, in a bid to ease the congestion while the works take place. Eurostar trains now operate from London St Pancras.

Network Rail said the project will allow commuter lines into Waterloo to carry 30 per cent more passengers at peak times. This will come as a welcome relief for passengers with many routes suffering from severe overcrowding as passenger numbers have increased in recent years.

South West Trains warned passengers to expect delays and urged people to travel outside peak times if possible. Passengers have apparently heeded the warnings so far, with several commuters reporting on Twitter that services were quiet during the first working day on which the platforms were closed.

Waterloo's reduced service in August: What it means for commuters

Which stations will be most affected?

Seven stations in south-west London will be closed during the works:

  • Chessington North
  • Chessington South
  • Earlsfield
  • Morden Manor
  • Norbiton
  • Queenstown Road
  • Tolworth 

Most stations on the network will see the number of rush-hour trains more than halved.

On the main lines from Bournemouth, Southampton and Winchester, morning rush-hour services will be cut by 54 per cent.

Those travelling on the Wimbledon, Kingston and Dorking lines will see three-quarters of trains cut, while Windsor and Reading will lose a third of services. Busy stations such as Clapham Junction and Wimbledon plan to operate a queuing system.

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